The first, big dividing event of the 1850s was the Compromise of 1850. While the South got more things in the Compromise, it ultimately hurt them – the harsher fugitive slave laws made many Northerners become fierce abolitionists and cry against slavery.
Federal commissioners who handled fugitive slave cases would receive 5 dollars if the fugitive was freed and 10 dollars if not – it was essentially a bribe. In addition, Northerners who aided slaves would be either heavily fined or jailed. This turned many Northerners to abolitionists.
The Republican Party developed as a moral outcry against slavery. It emerged in the Midwest and included many political parties, such as Whigs, Free Soilers, and Know-Nothings.
Strapped for land for slavery, the South looked to Cuba for land. The Ostend Manifesto was the South’s document attempting to get Cuba from Spain – they offered $120 million for the island, and if Spain refused, the US said they had justification for war. The document leaked, and Northern free-soilers and abolitionists became even more enraged.
The act split the Nebraska territory to Kansas and Nebraska, and both would be open to popular sovereignty. This angered Northerners who didn’t want popular sovereignty in new territories – they just wanted slavery abolished, so they didn’t follow the Fugitive Slave Laws.
Abolitionists who didn’t want Kansas to be open to slavery flooded into the state along with pro- slavery southerners. Voting for a Constitution with either slavery or none, Abolitionists and pro-slavery men fought at the polls and held each other at gunpoint. Full scale battles even broke out.
Senator Charles Sumner, a leading abolitionist, made a speech called “The Crime Against Kansas.” He condemned pro-slavery men, calling them vomit, and insulted one of the most liked members of the Senate, Andrew Butler of South Carolina. Preston Brooks of South Carolina angrily beat Sumner with his cane in response, and Sumner fell bleeding and unconscious. This incident furthered separation between North and South – Northerners hated Brooks for his actions whereas Southerners cheered him on.
The Democrats nominated James Buchanan, and the new Republican party nominated John Fremont. Even though Buchanan won, Fremont managed to get 38% of the electoral vote. For just a 2 year old party, it was an impressive feat.
Dred Scott was a slave in Wisconsin who sued for freedom since he’d lived there for 5 years. The Supreme Court ruled, since Dred Scott was a slave and not a citizen, he couldn’t sue in federal courts. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney also said that since slaves were private property, they could be taken into any territory and legally held there. Overall, it meant that Congress had no power to ban slavery from the territories, regardless of what the territories themselves wanted. This delighted Southerners, but not surprisingly, infuriated Northerners and Republicans.
Lincoln, Republican nominee for the Illinois Senate seat, challenged Douglas to many joint debates from August to October 1858. The most notable was at Freeport Illinois, where Lincoln asked, what would happen if a territory voted slavery to be abolished? Would the people win, or would the Court’s ruling from Dred Scott saying they could not win? Douglas said that slavery would stay down if people voted it down – while technically always true by Popular Sovereignty, Southerners hated hearing it, and later split from Douglas and formed their own southern Democratic party.
At Harpers Ferry, abolitionist John Brown killed seven people to attempt to lead a rebellion, but it failed, and he was captured. Southerners viewed as a murderous traitor, and thought the entire North was like John Brown.
The Democratic party split into 3 sections (moderate, extreme, and compromise). Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidency with a solid 180 electoral votes. In response, southern states, starting with South Carolina, seceded from the Union and made the Confederate States of America before Lincoln could actually take office in March.
The Crittenden Amendments were a last-ditch effort to save the country from splitting. They were designed to appeal to the South. Lincoln flatly rejected it – he couldn’t agree to more slavery in the Union.